Another gruesome elevator death has shocked and terrified an already lift-phobic city. But this time it was no accident — as was the case with Wednesday's freak crushing of a 41-year-old ad executive at a Madison Ave. building — but rather a carefully premeditated act of murder perpetrated upon a 73-year-old Brooklyn woman. The term "coldblooded" here does not even begin to scratch the surface.
In a recovered security video, the woman, Deloris Gillespie, is seen holding several bags of groceries, trying to exit the elevator on the fifth floor of her Prospect Heights apartment building. The time was 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The doors open, and 47-year-old Jerome Isaac, dressed as an exterminator, blocks her way; he then proceeds to spray Gillespie in the face, and then "methodically" over her entire body, in accelerant.
She "turns and cowers, raising her hands, the grocery bags hanging from her wrists," The New York Times reports. Isaac then forces Gillespie into the corner, and has some difficulty as he tries to ignite a barbecue lighter. He finally succeeds and sets Gillespie on fire. He then steps back into the hallway, then reappears with a Molotov cocktail ("a wine or Champagne bottle filled with accelerant, with a rag stuffed in its neck") and tosses it at her. The video cuts out as the elevator car erupts into flame, and Gillespie is burned alive.
A little less than 12 hours later, Isaac wandered into a nearby police station "reeking of gasoline," according to cops. He then admitted to what he'd done:
"He confessed to the crime, claiming that the woman owed him money for work he had done in the last year," said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York Police Department. Mr. Isaac did not specify the kind of work he had done, but said he was owed $2,000, Mr. Browne said.
According to Gillespie's nephew, his aunt had hired Isaac to help her clear out her apartment, but fired him after she'd suspected he'd stolen some items from her, including "a VCR and a large cake pan." Isaac posted an invoice to her door for $300, which she ignored. Soon after, Gillespie had added locks to her apartment door, according to another relative, and had reported Isaac to the police.
How to even process the enormity of what Isaac has done? The sheer evilness, the senselessness of it? Finding myself at a loss, I'll defer to the practical wisdom of Marge Gunderson, the fictional heroine and moral compass of the Coen Brothers' Fargo:
And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it.